Posted by: slee3324 | April 30, 2012

Is PR about lies and secrets?

In public relations, strategic communicators must make decisions about public reactions and assess the consequences of particular actions. There are good reasons for keeping quiet or managing how information is communicated, but most importantly, PR professionals must communicate in an ethical way that will withstand the air of publicity. In a recent PR Conversations blog post, Heather Yaxley considers how lying and secrets fit into ethical PR practice. Her argument is that PR communicators inherently “spin” or retell a corporate narrative that is based on a foundation of truth or “perceived” reality.

Yaxley states that “timing is a key element of PR communications and this requires keeping information secret until the optimum point to announce or release it,” and “part of trust means accepting that sometimes people (and organizations) do lie – but their reputation should establish that they would have a good reason for doing so” (Yaxley, 2012). She also implies that research is used to back claims by twisting the truth. For example, PR is often criticized for “cherry-picking” evidence, using misleading extrapolations, and omitting data points that don’t fit, in the hope that nobody notices.

The takeaway for me is that PR is not about lies and secrets but a variation of perspectives. Research should not be manipulated to alter the truth. Research is a valuable, powerful tool. Used properly it can give greater impact to almost any message. Misused, it can run the PR profession into a repute of lies and secrets.

Click on the below link to read Yaxley’s post:



  1. Interesting. I know there are divergent schools of thought here. When I decided to go into PR I only knew of two people who did it. One was a publicist for a large PBS studio. The other was her friend who worked for a nuclear power plant. I knew I would never be the right person for the job of covering something up and pursued my study with high ideals. I received affirmation of my ideals and the changing world when the PR guy (can’t remember his name) from PGE came and spoke to a class I was in. He shared a campaign and how the PR function ended up guiding operations based on public sentiment. PGE went to extensive lengths to work with environmental groups and agencies to ‘do the right thing’. They were able to determine that the added cost in front,(and it was huge) would save them money over the long term. This is so often the case. I see my work as helping people in an organization take the long view and to say on the inside what everyone is saying outside.

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